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Southern Poverty Law Center sues Georgia Department of Labor to enforce open records act

ATLANTA -- The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has filed suit against the Georgia Department of Labor (GDOL) in the Fulton County Superior Court after the agency failed to comply with the state’s open records act. The SPLC is seeking public information and records related to the months-long delays in processing unemployment insurance benefits (UIB) applications of, and to pay UIB owed to, people who desperately need financial assistance, and is asking a judge to compel GDOL to comply with state open records law.

On December 8, 2020, the SPLC submitted a written Georgia Open Records Act request to the GDOL for public data and records related to the processing times of applications, payments, and appeals, as well as policies, protocols, guidelines, rules, or procedures related to the GDOL’s processing and payment of UIB from February to November 2020. More than three months later, the state has not provided the information or given a reason under state law why it does not have to comply. Much of this request involves data that the GDOL electronically maintains and routinely reports to the U.S. Department of Labor. 

In January, SPLC  filed a lawsuit against GDOL on behalf of six applicants whose claims/appeals hadn’t been processed. While that case was dismissed, GDOL subsequently responded to all six applications after the suit was filed. 

The following is a statement from Emily Early, senior supervising staff attorney for the SPLC’s Economic Justice Project.  

“Since the pandemic began, thousands of Georgians have lost their jobs and have struggled to purchase food and pay their rent. Throughout this time, the GDOL has taken months to respond to unemployment applications and requests for appeals with no explanation for these unconscionable delays. Now the state is also choosing to ignore our open records request. We will advocate to get our request fulfilled and to understand why so many people cannot get the help, and dignity, they need and deserve during these challenging times.”

The lawsuit can be read here.